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Toronto shoots for seven straight with visit to Stars

by Eric Goodman

MAPLE LEAFS (27-20-5) at STARS (22-20-8)


Last 10: Toronto 6-4-0; Dallas 2-7-0

Season series: This is the second and final game between these cross-conference clubs. The Dallas Stars put a team season-high 50 shots on Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier on Dec. 5 but the Maple Leafs won 3-2 in a shootout at Air Canada Centre.

Big story: The Maple Leafs can extend their winning streak to seven games, something they haven't don since 2003-04 season when they won eight straight. The Stars have lost nine of their past 11 games (1-9-1), but have earned points against the Maple Leafs in four straight home games. The last time these teams played at American Airlines Center was Nov. 25, 2011.

Team Scope:

Maple Leafs: Toronto began its recent string of victories by defeating the New Jersey Devils 3-2 in a shootout on Jan. 12, which ended a four-game losing streak where the Maple Leafs averaged 4.8 goals against.

But coach Randy Carlyle's players have been finding ways to win thanks in part to a surge in offense sparked by forward Phil Kessel, who scored twice against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Tuesday to extend his goal streak to four games. The goaltending has also found its stride with Bernier riding a four-game winning streak and James Reimer earning two straight victories.

"There's a lot more life in the room," defenseman Dion Phaneuf said after the win Tuesday. "We've got a confidence in our dressing room that we feel good about ourselves."

Stars: Dallas continues its five-game homestand and has been steadily improving its special-teams output with power-play goals in five straight games for the first time since Dec. 11-23, 2010. Although the Stars are just 1-3-1 in those five games, a 4-0 win against the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday got the home stretch started on a positive note.

"When you're losing, the dressing room's not great," defenseman Jordie Benn said after the game. "We came in [against Minnesota] and had good spirits, and we did pretty good."

Who's hot: Kessel is in the midst of a seven-game point streak with six goals and eight assists over that span. … Dallas forward Shawn Horcoff had a goal and an assist in the previous game against Toronto and has seven points (one goal, six assists) in his past seven games against the Atlantic Division team.

Injury report: Maple Leafs forwards David Clarkson (elbow), Dave Bolland (ankle surgery), Trevor Smith (broken hand) and Frazer McLaren (shoulder) are on injured reserve. … Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas (broken leg) is on IR.

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